Details: In the 1980s, it seemed like Southern California was immersed in that punk-New Wave vibe, whereas the East Coast was caught up in the hacky-sack Deadhead thing. I think California got the better end of the deal.
Bret Easton Ellis: Did we? You know what? Wouldn't that have been more fun—I mean, less angsty—to just let it all go and follow the Dead? Just become a Deadhead and wear overalls and just, like, smoke really rancid pot and listen to American Beauty over and over again.
Details: You're a closet hippie, Bret.
Bret Easton Ellis: Sometimes I wish I was.
Details: Do you miss the eighties?
Bret Easton Ellis: No! Not at all. Oh, well, compared to, like, how horrible things are now? Oh, well, yeah! The eighties were a lot better. The eighties seem fairly sunny compared to where we are now, don't they? I mean, we were in the empire then. The empire's over. It's gone.
Details: When Michiko Kakutani first reviewed Less Than Zero in The New York Times in June of 1985, she began the review this way: "This is one of the most disturbing novels I've read in a long time." Do you remember how that hit you, when it came out?
Bret Easton Ellis: I remember not knowing who Michiko Kakutani was. [Laughs] That's what I remember most about seeing that review. Honestly, I was too young to get it. Everyone else was sort of freaking out that the book even got reviewed in The New York Times—my agent and my editor and other people were extremely excited for me. And I think I was bummed out about some stuff that was going on at Bennington College at the time—like a relationship problem. So yeah, I guess in retrospect that seems pretty remarkable that that book was reviewed there. But as a 21-year-old, I was lost in other more pressing personal problems.
Details: Maybe being from Los Angeles affected how you viewed the fame monster?
Bret Easton Ellis: Growing up out here in L.A. and around a lot of kids whose parents worked in Hollywood, you realize that fame and notoriety are kind of ridiculous. My clique of high-school buddies—we were jaded. Becoming successful? Yeah. But becoming a famous person? Lame.
Details: Well, isn't that a healthy perspective?
Bret Easton Ellis: Yeah. I just wish I'd kept onto it. I wish I didn't start chasing fame like a madman!
Details: When American Psycho was published, some of the attacks from feminists were so vitriolic. Did that bother you?
Bret Easton Ellis: Women are crazy! So no, it didn't. I grew up with two sisters and my mom. I saw firsthand how emotionally unstable women can be. To a degree I do believe that the book is feminist in nature. I think it's a book that is criticizing certain male values and behavior. So the feminist response was just—you know, it was retarded. And I think probably that most of the hardcore feminists who attacked the book now are probably ashamed. I don't know. Talk to Tammy Bruce—I see her at the gym every now and then.
Details: No way.
Bret Easton Ellis: Yeah. I've walked past her a couple of times. And she sort of looked at me and rolled her eyes, and I pretended I didn't notice her, but I had.
Details: Why don't you talk to her?
Bret Easton Ellis: Because I'm not interested. I am really not interested in what she had to say or what she has to say. What was interesting, of course, was how it got terrible reviews from everybody, in 1991. That was the worst-reviewed of all my novels.
Details: And now it's considered a pivotal cultural moment.
Bret Easton Ellis: It's strange, isn't it?
Details: Your critique of society now seems way ahead of the curve. In a way, you invented Paris Hilton and Spencer Pratt and the Kardashians.
Bret Easton Ellis: All of whom I really like a lot, except Paris. But I actually like the Kardashians. I'd like to hang out with Rob Kardashian. I think he's a nice young man. Of course, if you watch that show, you get why people want to blow us up.
Details: Who's "us"?
Bret Easton Ellis: America! But I don't care. I like the show.
Details: Years ago people could have read some of your books and said, "Oh, this is just nihilism. These people don't exist! There's nobody that rich and stupid and narcissistic!"
Bret Easton Ellis: Ha ha ha! Surprise!
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